Tom Izzo talks about Michigan State's win over Indiana. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
Bloomington, Ind. — There were plenty of boos from the crowd at Assembly Hall on Saturday night.
The fans let Michigan State hear it when they came on the court for warm-ups, jeered the announcement of the starters and that of coach Tom Izzo. It continued throughout the game as the fans worked the refs and stayed on the visiting Spartans as Indiana nearly pulled off the upset.
It was, like most road games in the Big Ten, a tough environment for the visiting team.
But what was absent from start to finish of No. 5 Michigan State’s 63-60 victory were any shots from the fans — the student section, in particular — that made light of the issues surrounding Michigan State, namely its role in the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal that counts its victims at more than 250.
There were no low blows, no tasteless cracks from the Hoosier faithful. And the university made sure, before the game, it wasn’t going to accept any less as it sent an e-mail to its student season-ticket holders and left handouts on every seat.
“This is Indiana. This is our house. This is the loudest, largest and best fanbase in the country,” the message read. “We are Hoosiers and we respect all of our opponents that take this court. We cheer and chant in a positive manner that does not belittle our opponents with degrading language and behavior. Especially today, our thoughts of support are with the survivors at Michigan State and nothing may be said or done to reference them in a negative way. We have zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior and you will be removed from the game if you do not cooperate. We thank you for your support and Go IU!”
It didn’t go unnoticed by Izzo, who continued to wear a teal ribbon pinned to his suit coat in support of sexual assault survivors.
“I’m probably going to sound a little bit like an IU fan but I do want to publicly thank IU,” Izzo said. “I want to thank their president, AD, coach, players, fans, and students. Whatever they sent out was very classy and well done, and very much appreciated, handling themselves without some of the things that needed to be said. I take my hat off to them.”
Izzo has been hit with questions the previous three games about a recent ESPN report that said his program — along with the football program — has had issues with the way it has handled sexual assaults.
There were no ESPN reporters in Saturday’s postgame press conference, but Izzo was asked about when he might speak to questions raised in the report.
“I really don’t know,” Izzo said. “I looked at it and I thought about it and I looked at all the multiple ongoing investigations with which we’ve cooperated with fully. I just think it’s inappropriate for me to say anything right now. Our whole focus has really, because I’m trying to keep things on the up and up, our whole focus has been the healing process for the survivors, the healing process for our university and our community and for me to coach our basketball team. So, I don’t have a date, but the day will come sometime. I promise.”
Michigan State entered the game leading the nation in rebounding margin at plus-12.1 but got outrebounded 53-29 by Indiana. The Hoosiers also held a 25-3 advantage on the offensive glass.
It was Michigan State’s worst rebounding margin since it was outrebounded by 18 against North Carolina in the Sweet 16 of the 1998 NCAA Tournament. The three offensive rebounds for Michigan State were its fewest since 1996-97.
“This program has been built on heart and toughness, and tonight we weren’t the tougher team,” Izzo said. “I’m going to try to take the blame for that myself, and maybe we’ll get to bring the shoulder pads out again or something fun, have a little fun with our guys.”
The victory was Izzo’s 266th Big Ten victory, moving him past Purdue’s Gene Keady into second place all time behind former Indiana coach Bob Knight, who won 353 games with the Hoosiers.
… The 22-3 start matches the Spartans’ best 25-game start. The 2000-01 team recorded the same mark and reached 24-3 before losing in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.